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November 2010

Bouquet Of Barbed Wire

cast: Trevor Eve, Hermione Norris, Tom Riley, Imogen Poots, and Jemima Rooper

director: Ashley Pearce

135 minutes (15) 2009
widescreen ratio 16:9
ITV DVD Region 2

RATING: 9/10
review by Matthew S. Dent

Bouquet Of Barbed Wire

ITV gets a lot of criticism (much of it comes from me) for screening a load of drivel which no one cares about or much wants to watch. However, the discovery, post-viewing, that this is an ITV production means that I may be forced to reassess that view.

Bouquet Of Barbed Wire is a remake of a series by the same title that was made in the 1970s, and caused a fair stir back then. I, however, haven't seen the original, so you're spared a tirade about how remakes are a waste of time, they never live up to the original, etc. Except, even if I had seen it, I think it would be fairly hard pressed to raise such a criticism; the remake was pretty damn good.

It stars Trevor Eve as Peter Manson, an architect with a markedly close relationship with his daughter, Prue. Until, that is, she gets pregnant by and marries her former English teacher, Gavin Sorenson (Tom Riley). Gavin seems to have some mysterious connection with Peter, and almost maniacally sets about bringing his comfortable family life crashing down around his ears, driving wedges between him, his daughter, and his wife Cassandra (Hermione Norris).

This is dark stuff. That's the foremost thing I took away from this. It is dark, it is twisted, and it is very immersive. I don't think it's meant to be watched all in one go, and to be honest I wouldn't recommend watching it like that. It has a weight to it which feels somewhat oppressive and suffocating in its depressiveness.

Which isn't a criticism; it's a beautifully crafted piece of drama, with excellent performances all round. In particular, Trevor Eve is brilliant. The man better known as a scarily unstable copper in Waking The Dead here plays a vulnerable, sympathetic, and yet at the same time contemptible individual. Tom Riley's sociopathic Gavin was also a dramatic treat, flitting between reasonable and unstable from scene to scene in a way that keeps you guessing as to what was actually going on.

My only real fault with Bouquet Of Barbed Wire is its pacing. Not uniformally, but rather at the beginning. It kicks off almost immediately with the introduction and revelation of Gavin's relationship with Prue, which comes after a scene doubtless intended to underscore the closeness of Peter's relationship with her. But the suddenness of it seems to undermine that, and I felt that if it had taken a little longer to lead in, to setup the father-daughter relationship, then it would have been more effective.

But this is a drama built on relationships, and the messes that people make of them, and I must say that they were very well written. Even the dialogue ("If you screw this up for us I'll bite your bloody throat out, now piss off!") shone with a glow of realism- though some of the crying noises evoked chuckles rather than sympathy.

This isn't a perfect drama. But then, I'm not sure that there is such a thing. If you try and push the boundaries, then you aren't going to get everything right. The original Bouquet Of Barbed Wire was famous for being very controversial. The remake isn't so much, but that's a product of the changing times rather than the calibre of the drama. What it is - is a raw examination of human lives, family relationships, and the secrets we keep. What it is - is top notch television.



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